A Guide to Interactive TV Terminology


By: Chris Conderino, EVP, Director of Planning, Mercury Media New York City

Interactive TV has been bantered about for the last 10 years and seemed no more likely than beaming up to the Starship Enterprise.  Suddenly it’s all over the trades, with every sector of the advertising business either prognosticating on its future or building it.  As with any new advancement there are new words that describe new processes or redefine and expand the definition of common terms.  For example, “video” has replaced “programming” as the term for moving pictures with sound.  And “TV” has become a “channel” or “platform” rather than the only medium to use channels.

This collection of “interactive TV” terms should help you get started and ready for the new frontier.

Addressable – Term used to describe the ability to send content to an individual household.  Privacy issues slowing current proliferation.

Authentication – Verifying consumer as a content subscriber in order to allow them access to programming.  Intended to maintain content rights and protect ad revenue models.

Broadband – Digital cable, fiber-optic Telco’s and internet access.  Satellites are not broadband.

CAM – Community addressable messaging.  Future goal of ITV, when messages can be delivered at the HH/STB level.

Click-to-Call/Buy – Using the remote control to request a call from the marketer or make a purchase.

Content – Programming, commercials (SForm/LForm) … everything is “content”.

Custom Versioning – Create various versions of commercial messaging with the intention of trafficking them to unique, targeted viewers based on interest and consumer behavior.   Ideally used when “addressability” is achieved.

Digital Homes – Homes that receive their TV content from a set-top-box or specialized device that transmits from a web connection.  Homes that utilize a “digital receiver to convert “analog” frequencies are not “digital homes”.

Direct Tune – Message on the overlay to tune to an OnDemand or VOD unit for more info.  I.e. Tune to Ch 223 to see brand videos.

Dynamic Ad Units (DAU) – Advanced interactive creative units that serve additional information or entertainment i.e. gaming, geo-targeting, sweepstakes entry.  Like “rich media” online.

EBIF – Enhanced TV binary interchange format.  Standard software to enable interactivity for all set-top-boxes (STB) regardless of manufacturer.

Electronic/Interactive Program Guide (EPG/IPG) – Focus is on advancements that will provide better search tools for viewers.

Head End – The closest distribution point where a cable system transmits content to its subscribers.

IPTV – Acronym for “internet protocol TV”.  Future ability of the TV set-top-box to interface with the web like a modem, access content and achieve 2-way communications with the web.

MAC Address – Media access control address.  Like a computer IP address, it’s the unique identifying code given by the manufacturer for your set top device.

Microsite – Custom landing page.  Also refers to a custom channel or marketplace on TV.

MSO – Multiple systems operator.  Companies that own and operate a number of individual cable systems in the US.  Over 2,000 cable systems are owned by 7-8 MSO’s including Comcast, Time Warner, Charter, Cox, Cablevision and Bright House.

Multi-screen – For interactive marketing, usually refers to the three interactive video mediums, TV, Web and Mobile.

OnDemand – Refers to a consumer-driven action in which programming or commercial content is served and viewed upon request.  Also refers to a range of channels on a cable system designated for requestable commercial content.

Overlays/”Bugs” – Visual baseline pop-ups added to a TV commercial  reflecting the call-to-action prompts with instructions on how to use the remote for interactivity.

“Pay-for-Play”/Free TV – Viewers option to pay for programming to eliminate commercials or watch for free with commercials.  Free option should disable Fast Forward.

Polling – Consumer surveys using the remote control to capture response.  Queries on anything including brand preferences, buying behaviors, political attitudes and more.

RFI – Request for information, coupons, and samples.  Respondent opts-in and fulfillment is sent to subscriber account file.

Set-Top-Box (STB) – The predominant TV device that receives all video content and stores DVR programming.

Static ad units (SAU) – Static overlay units that a viewer can respond to without changing channels or viewing content.

Subscription Model – Used to monetize the proliferation of video content across all media platforms.

T-Commerce – Television commerce transacted interactively.

Telescoping (Power :30) – Direct link from a short form unit to VOD, long form content.

Tru2way – aka “IPTV”.  Java-enabled, IP-addressed, set-top-box, that will enable hyperlinking with the web and return communications.

“TV Everywhere”- Multi screen distribution of content to aggregate viewers and fulfill their expectations of viewing content On Demand.  Usually involves TV, Web and Mobile.

TXT-to-Order/Connect with TSR – Using a mobile phone prompted by a TV call-to-action to text an order or request a call from the marketer.

Video – General word for “content” delivered through various media services including broadcast, cable, satellite, telecom and web, across all lengths and formats from user-generated clips to full-length movies.

VOD Advertising (pre, mid, post-roll) – Advertising positioning during a VOD program airing.

Widgets/”Apps” – On-screen icon that links to an interactive application.

Chris Conderino is Executive Vice President and Director of Planning for Mercury Media where she is responsible for growing the agency’s strategic planning capabilities to support all client industries and business units, developing and growing custom services for the agency’s corporate clients and developing the agency’s Interactive TV capabilities.  Before joining Mercury Media, Chris launched three full service media departments within creative agency shops and two direct response companies including TBS Direct and Zenith Optimedia Direct, where she was responsible for $600MM in billings.

Contact her at cconderino@mercurymedia.com


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